Photo by Craig A. Phillips

I now have been retired for a little over nine months and I am still trying to get the hang of it. More than one of my retired friends has told me that it took them the better part of three years to get used to it. So I am just a beginner.

All kinds of resources exist for retirement planning but most of them, apart from an occasional nod to the familiar advice to follow your dreams, focus on its financial dimensions. That is due for the most part to the fact that no two people are alike and retirement means different things to different people. Some will quit work altogether and others will continue to work full or part-time in retirement, but perhaps in a different area from the work from which they retired. No matter the circumstances, retirement means change and change always comes with some loss in the hope of gain. 

The best advice I got on the first day or two of my retirement was from a woman who told me not to try to do all my errands on the same day. Save something, she said, to do tomorrow. I have taken that into account and no longer try to cram ten errands into the same day. I save something to do tomorrow.  

The other problem — and it really is a problem, although not an earth-shattering one — is that every day seems like a Saturday. I lived a life for forty plus years that focused on Sundays. Saturday for me was always a day for errands and by the evening,  a time to brace myself and prepare for the busyness of Sunday morning. So, I suppose it was more like most people’s Sundays before work resumed on Mondays. Now there are times when I can’t remember what day it is. While it’s a wonderful feeling, it can also be a bit disorienting.

When we retired, we moved far from where we had been living. More than one person has asked me why we moved north to cold New Hampshire instead of chasing the warmer southern climes. As with many people our age, we moved to be nearer to family. We wanted to move to a place that was new and familiar at the same time. Growing up, I spent my family vacations in New Hampshire. We also lived there and commuted into Cambridge when I was a Divinity Student. And when my father died in 1983, my mother moved to New Hampshire where she lived for many years. And so we retired in a part of the state unfamiliar to us but in many ways familiar to us as well. 

When we moved into a new town, we knew no one here. After a couple of months, I knew that I needed to make connections in the community and I wanted to be of service to it. So, I sought out and joined the local Rotary Club that meets every Wednesday for lunch. They have already put me to work on their many service and charity fund-raising projects. In a few months I have gotten to know people from towns all around and I feel more connected to the community.

At home, we are busy every day trying to repair and update a house that had suffered some neglect. We hired professionals to do some of the big jobs, but we are chipping away slowly at the smaller tasks. In February, we set up a portable heated greenhouse in our backyard, That allowed us to get a head start on our gardens this year. Now that spring is here, we have been busy every day working to reclaim and improve the plantings on our property which is over an acre in size. It’s a mix of lawns and garden beds, with ground vegetation and woodlands on its edges. We have planted fruit trees, fruit bushes, roses, shrubs, Japanese maples, fifteen garden beds, with dozens and dozens of plants and seedlings still needing a home.

In retirement we are not really doing anything that is completely new to us, but what we are doing we are doing in a different way and sometimes for different purposes. So, it’s an adventure yet to be continued. In three years, I’ll let you know if I’ve finally gotten the hang of it. 


  1. A glance at the etymology of “retire” is disturbing. The prefix “re” of course means “back” or “again,” but the core comes from French “tirer” meaning “draw out, endure, suffer.” Fall back from enduring? Withdraw from suffering? The military use of the word “retire” certainly has that meaning; perhaps the personal use also: “I have fought the good fight; now for well-earned rest from my labors” and all that. The problem is, most retirees don’t feel like resting. Before “retirement” all those unfinished chores and hobbies and bucket-list wishes looked like a full-time occupation but the reality is, a retiree has to re-direct all that restless energy consciously. That is hard work.

    At the same time, even retirees in the best of health inhabit — well — older bodies. I look at friends who’ve “retired” and immediately moved away from family and friends to ski-villages and outdoor-living venues and I shake my head. They’ll be back. It gets old; and they’ll get older.

    Does this process require three years? That sounds like a reasonable milestone, even for retirees who stay much closer to their past communities or move to rejoin family members. But there’s nothing magic about three years. As retirees, we have a lifetime of experience we cannot put to use in the same way but we can draw upon; we have the wisdom of age to apply as we work on new things that need doing. It takes grace to accept that it’s also time to slow down.

    That rocking chair in your post is a good symbol for finding this new balance in our lives. Three years? I have been retired now for sixteen years and I’m still working at it, still searching for the grace to accept it. I’m glad to welcome you to this journey with the rest of us. — Allen Barringer

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